Under pressure from its competitors, Eurocopter–still the number-one manufacturer in the civil helicopter market–is working hard to cope with a rapid production ramp-up of its own helicopters at a time when rivals are introducing a dizzying array of new models.
AgustaWestland and Eurocopter have confirmed “their joint commitment to the NH90 program,” the two companies announced here at Heli-Expo’07. They will ensure that commitment is reaffirmed during meetings planned during the next few weeks between the NATO Helicopter Management Agency and government representatives. The NH90 backlog stands at 445 firm and 100 options ordered by 18 armed forces in 14 countries.
A CMC Electronics SureSight M-Series infrared enhanced-vision system (EVS) sensor has been installed on an AgustaWestland AW139 for a corporate customer by Edwards & Associates, a subsidiary of Bell Helicopter. The avionics installation specialist expects to receive the FAA STC for the installation soon.
Despite the Navy’s decision to scale back initial funding for the program, Lockheed Martin continues to ready a new facility opened last year in Owego, N.Y., that will integrate systems and outfit cabins on the VH-71, the much-anticipated replacement for the U.S. Presidential helicopter fleet. The popular name Kestrel has been suggested for the VH-71, but remains to be officially adopted by the Navy.
AgustaWestland often is overshadowed by that “other” major European helicopter manufacturer, cross-continent rival Eurocopter. But while Eurocopter outsells AgustaWestland (Booth No. 529) by a wide margin, it has yet to come up with an answer to the AW139 (although it hopes its new EC 175 will be a strong competitor) and has nothing like the BA609 tiltrotor on its drawing board–as far as we know.
Boeing and AgustaWestland (Booth No. 529) have signed a memorandum of understanding for joint work on the next-generation Chinook for the Italian Army. The deal could lead to similar joint opportunities in the future.
The industry gears up for its annual group hug, this year back in Las Vegas (March 15 to 17) against a backdrop of decent sales figures for new civil helicopters over the past year and a forecast of modest growth over the next eight. According to Bill Dane, senior analyst at Forecast International, between 2003 and 2012 projected deliveries are 9,500 helicopters valued at $19 billion.
While Eurocopter remains the leader in unit sales of civil helicopters, its competitors are honing their products. The company’s management team is well aware of the pressure, as one official recently expressed concern about new competing products from Western manufacturers. He stated that they will soon be as capable as, and less expensive than, Eurocopter’s.
AgustaWestland is acquiring Bell Helicopter’s 25-percent stake in the AB139 twin-turbine helicopter program. “Consolidating the ownership of the AB139 will provide a single face to the customer, leading to increased sales and greater customer satisfaction related to follow-on support services,” said AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppi Orsi.
NH Industries (NHI) has put project studies for a commercial version of the NH90 helicopter on the back burner. The multinational partnership had been studying a civil version of the NH90 military utility rotorcraft for possible application in governmental, executive and offshore-support roles.